There is an increasing trend away from drastic weight loss diets and a move towards diets that contain high quality foods that will improve health, as well as weight loss.
A healthy diet for weight loss needs to be sustainable, while not eating too many calories overall. Here are some diets to consider.
The Mediterranean diet is based on a traditional dietary pattern eating mainly plant based and small amounts of meat. It is high in dietary fat, predominantly monounsaturated fatty acids from extra virgin olive oil. Fruits, vegetables and wholegrains are a mainstay, and moderate amounts of nuts and seeds, fish, dairy and red wine are recommended.
Studies have found that following either a traditional Mediterranean diet or a low-carb version of it can result in weight loss of about 5-10% of body weight over 12 months. In one of the most successful weight loss trials to date, those assigned to the Mediterranean diet maintained weight loss over a period of six years.
This diet cycles between brief periods of fasting, with periods of unrestricted eating. The idea behind it is to prevent the body from getting used to a low-calorie diet that prevents further weight loss. By cycling between the low calorie and normal dietary patterns, it prevents the body to adapt to continuous calorie restriction.
There are different ways of carrying out this diet. One way is to restrict your eating to 25% of your calorie needs for a period of time of the day, for example in the morning. Then you would carry on eating for your usual daily calorie needs for the rest of the day. Another way is to alternate one day of low calorie eating with one day of normal eating.
Although animal studies have shown certain benefits of such a diet, Harvard University found that more high-quality studies with follow-up of greater than one year are needed to show a direct effect and the possible benefits of intermittent fasting. Certain people who typically eat one or two meals a day or do not eat for long stretches of time may show better compliance with this type of regimen.
This style of eating is about slowing down, being mindful of the sensory qualities of your food, appreciating the tastes, smells and textures. It is also about enjoying each mouthful, which can in turn help with your body recognising signals that it is satisfied and full. In this way, it can also distinguish between emotional versus physical hunger cues. This contrasts with distracted or mindless eating, where sometimes you can eat more food than you need. It includes acknowledging how the body feels after eating the meal, expresses gratitude for the meal and may use deep breathing or meditation before or after the meal.
Intervention studies have shown that mindfulness approaches can be an effective tool in the treatment of unfavourable behaviours such as emotional eating and binge eating that can lead to uncontrolled weight gain, although weight loss as an outcome measure is not always seen.
However there is no standard for what defines mindful eating behaviour. Additional research is needed to determine what behaviours constitute a mindful eating practice. More research is needed to examine whether mindful eating is an effective strategy for weight management.
There is some evidence that a low-carbohydrate diet may help people lose weight more quickly than a low-fat diet and may help them maintain that weight loss.
In a research paper published in Statpearls, it informs that it is clear from numerous systematic reviews that low-carb diets are as effective, if not more effective, for weight loss compared to other diets.
In 2021, CSIRO researchers were also involved in an international study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) that demonstrated a low carbohydrate diet was more effective than a traditional higher carbohydrate, low fat diet in achieving remission of type 2 diabetes. The CSIRO Low-Carb Diet Health Program is one low carbohydrate program that has been researched for its effectiveness to help achieve sustained long-term weight loss.
The planetary health diet is symbolically represented by half a plate of fruits and vegetables. The other half consists of primarily whole grains, plant proteins such as beans, lentils, pulses, nuts, unsaturated plant oils, modest amounts of meat and dairy, and some added sugars and starchy vegetables.
The diet is quite flexible and allows for adaptation to dietary needs, personal preferences and cultural traditions. Vegetarian and vegan diets are two healthy options within the planetary health diet but are personal choices. According to Harvard University, the strongest evidence to date shows that calories matter, but focusing on food quality is an equally important part of preventing weight gain and promoting weight loss.
This diet provides the opportunity to follow a healthy plate that consists of high-quality foods. High-quality foods include unrefined, minimally processed foods such as vegetables and fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and healthy sources of protein – the foods recommended in the Healthy Eating Plate. Foods shown to be associated with weight loss were vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and yogurt.
Lower-quality foods include highly processed snack foods, sugar sweetened beverages, refined white grains, refined sugar, fried foods, foods high in saturated and trans fats, and high-glycemic foods such as potatoes. Harvard points to a study of over 120,000 healthy women and men spanning 20 years where researchers concluded that consumption of processed foods higher in starches, refined grains, fats, and sugars can increase weight gain.